Population Policies and Ethical Acceptability
Arthur J. Dyck
Population, experts are becoming increasingly alarmed by population growth rates throughout the world, and they are calling for substantial decreases in birth rates. During the past decade, more and more governments have also become concerned with high birth rates and have inaugurated programs aimed at lowering the birth rate. These programs have largely concentrated on voluntary family planning. Bolstered by the development of the loop and the pill, efforts to provide contraceptives and information concerning their use to as many people as possible have markedly escalated.*
Governments and voluntary organizations can offer two very cogent justifications for such family planning programs. First, the distribution of contraceptives assists couples to have only the children they want. Therefore, providing contraceptives and contraceptive information can quite properly be viewed as an extension of human freedom, and government support of family planning programs can be seen as an attempt to help those who are ignorant about contraceptives and those who have difficulty obtaining them. Second, family planning programs enhance the health of individuals, particularly the health of mothers, and through rational spacing of births, the development, health, and welfare of children as well.'
Many advocates of family planning programs see them as a means of curtailing rapid population growth. Some have even argued that ready availability and clear knowledge of modern contraceptives would, in itself, motivate people to reduce the size of their families (4). Thus, some family planning agencies expect that their programs will reduce birth rates and, therefore, help to solve problems associated with rapid population increase.
Arthur J. Dyck is Member of the Center for Population Studies and Mary B. Saltonstall Professor of Population Ethics, Harvard School of Public Health.
*Scc, for example, works by Berclson and Nortman (1-3).
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